Back to School Attendance Information

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Student with backpack for education.
Students wearing backpacks for school

As students across England and Wales have been heading back into the classrooms for the start of the new academic year, we thought it would be helpful to summarize the ‘need to knows’ for school attendance.  

Why is attendance important?  

Being in school every day during term time is really important for your child’s academic achievement, wellbeing and wider holistic development.

After all, data shows the clear correlation between attendance and attainment, with one study evidencing that pupils with higher attainment at KS2 and KS4 had lower levels of absence over the key stage compared to those with lower attainment.

What’s more, research also shows the close link between education and both mental and physical health, highlighting how by promoting the health and wellbeing of students, schools have the opportunity to improve not only educational outcomes, but health and wellbeing outcomes too. After all, participation in extra-curriculum activities has been proven to have a positive impact on attainment, which is linked to academic success. In turn, academic success has been evidenced to have a strong positive impact on children’s subjective life satisfaction and is linked to higher levels of wellbeing into adulthood.  

Did you know?  

Parents or carers of a child have a legal responsibility to ensure their child has a suitable education, which is usually achieved through regular school attendance.  

When can my child be absent from school?  

Your child must attend school, every day it is open, unless:  

  • Your child is too ill to attend that day  
  • You have made an advanced request, which has been approved by the school, for your child to be absent on that day due to an exceptional circumstance (a one off, unavoidable event such as the death of a close relative)  
  • You are taking part in religious observance on that day  
  • The local authority is responsible for arranging and providing your child’s transport to school, and it is either not available on that day, or hasn’t been provided yet  
  • You are a gypsy/traveller family with no fixed abode, and you are required to travel for work that day meaning your child cannot attend their usual school. In most circumstances, however, your child is required to attend another school temporarily during such absences 

Did you know?  

The circumstances listed above are the only ones where schools can authorize your child’s absence. If your child needs to be absent from school for one of these reasons, you should contact their school with as much advance notice as possible to explain why. If you do not let the school know, they will contact you on the first morning of your child’s absence to find out why. All parents must request ‘a leave of absence’ for their child to be away from school for a period of time. They must be applied for in advance, and are only granted in exceptional circumstances. It is worth noting that your child’s head teacher has the final say over whether to approve the request, and how long for.  

Can I take my child on holiday during term time?  

Parents and carers should always plan holidays during school holidays. After all, your child is only at school 195 days of the year, leaving 170 days for possible holidays! As mentioned, ‘a leave of absence’ is only granted in exceptional circumstances, which a family holiday does not constitute. If permission is refused and you keep your child off the days requested, you are likely to be committing an offence and may be issued a fixed penalty notice of £60 (rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days).  

Did you know?  

A two week term time holiday, means the highest possible attendance is 94.7% – and that is not taking into account any days of illness across the year!  

What should I do if I need support to help my child attend school?  

There are a wide variety of reasons why children may struggle to attend school, and both your school, the school’s Education Welfare Officer and the local authority have responsibilities to help support your child’s attendance. In most cases, if your child’s attendance is of concern, the school will contact you to look at why this may be the case, and what support can be put in place to help you overcome the barriers you are facing.  

If the barriers are in school (such as friendship issues), then the school is responsible for working with you to address and overcome any such obstacles. Information about who you can contact for support can be found on the school’s attendance policy (on the website). Alternatively, you will be able to ask for a hard copy of the attendance policy from reception.  

If the barriers are outside of school (such as a mental health or transport issue) both the school and local authority have a responsibility to help you. The local authority should be able to provide you with access to the wider support you need, such as from the school nurse or from local housing or transport teams. You may receive support from Early Help, which is a triaging hub led by Cornwall Council.  

As part of the conversation you will have with your child’s school and Education Welfare Officer (EWO), you will all work together to agree on a set of joint actions to overcome the specific attendance barrier you are facing.   

Did you know?  

If your child is anxious or worried about going to school, ask the school for help. Every child is entitled to additional support to help them engage with learning and there will often be named staff who have a specific responsibility for this, such as the school’s Parent Support Advisor (PSA).  

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